Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said Manchester City’s preparations for their derby victory were helped by playing in two “friendly” matches during the past week.
City returned to the top of the Premier League as goals from David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan earned the champions three points at Etihad Stadium.
But Mourinho said the hosts had an advantage as their past two games – home thrashings of Southampton and Shakhtar Donetsk in which they won by an aggregate 12-1 – were significantly more straightforward than his team’s most recent matches.
This was United’s third away game in succession, following back-to-back wins at Bournemouth last weekend and Juventus on Wednesday.
“It’s a heavy result for the effort of a team that had three away matches in the same week, with a super difficult match of a high, demanding level in Juventus against a team that had two friendly matches at home against Southampton and Shakhtar,” Mourinho told BBC Radio 5 live.
“The physical fatigue and the mental fatigue leads to mistakes. They were tired physically and mentally. You need to be in football or another high-level sport to know what that is. The concentration of the big matches, they dry you. You are dry inside. To be ready again for another big match is not easy.”
City’s victory was rarely in doubt after Silva bundled home an early goal to give them a narrow interval advantage.
They got the second their superiority deserved with Aguero’s rasping, rising finish past David de Gea three minutes into the second half following an exchange of passes with Riyad Mahrez.
Mourinho’s side, without injured Paul Pogba, barely mounted a serious threat but were given hope of earning an unlikely point just before the hour when Romelu Lukaku was hauled down by Ederson seconds after he had come on as substitute. Anthony Martial sent the Brazilian keeper the wrong way from the spot.
It briefly revived memories of last season’s dramatic derby here when United came from two goals down to win, but City never looked like losing control and wrapped up the win two minutes from time when substitute Gundogan took advantage of static United defending to beat De Gea from close range following a 44-pass move.
“We deserved the victory,” City manager Pep Guardiola told BBC Sport. “The first half we played a little bit with fear and we didn’t want to lose the ball. We didn’t want to attack and they defended well.
“In the second half the game was a bit open so we had to find more space and we made a good performance against a top, top team.”